Scout from Little Rock to Benton (March 27–31, 1864)
The March 27–31, 1864, Scout from Little Rock to Benton was undertaken after the bulk of the Federal forces in Little Rock (Pulaski County) marched south on March 23, 1864, to participate in the Camden Expedition, leaving a vacuum in the region that was soon filled by guerrillas and cotton thieves.
Captain Enoch H. Vance of Company E, Fourth Arkansas Cavalry (US), led troopers from his regiment out of Little Rock at 3:00 a.m. on March 27, 1864, toward Benton (Saline County). Circling to the west, the party had just passed Brown’s tannery when they spotted two guerrillas. The column’s advance troops gave chase, but the bushwhackers escaped, though Vance observed that “one of them was run so close that he dropped his gun, which our boys got.” They arrived at Benton that evening, learning that Captain Lafayette Bunner of the Seventh Missouri Cavalry (US) had also encountered guerrillas in the area.
Leaving on the morning of March 28, the Arkansas troopers headed down the east side of the Saline River to Steele’s Mill, spotting and chasing more guerrillas, but not engaging them. They continued downriver before turning east and camping at the home of Confederate soldier Alexander Nall.
Vance learned from some civilians that Confederate guerrillas had been forcing local men to help them steal cotton from William Swappord, who lived eighteen miles from Benton, and commandeering local wagons and horses to haul the cotton to Benton. From there, a group of women brought several bales to Little Rock on March 20 to sell with “the balance thrown off into the woods or concealed.”
Vance wrote that five women—identified as Mrs. Olivia McAdo, Mrs. Sue Thomson, Bethena Wiley, Fanny Lee, and Mrs. Thomas Glidewell—brought the rest of the cotton into Little Rock on March 27, and after determining that the women would return to Benton on March 29, his column returned there and arrested three of them. He correctly guessed that several guerrillas would meet the women there “to get the news, &c.,” writing that “the bushwhackers made a desperate rally to get the captured wagon and their fair friends, but they failed to get either.” The expedition returned to Little Rock on March 31.
For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1, pp. 858–859. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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